NASA Selects Proposals to Study Stellar Explosions, Galaxies, Stars

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — NASA has selected four mission proposals submitted to the agency’s Explorers Program for further study. The proposals include missions that would study exploding stars, distant clusters of galaxies, and nearby galaxies and stars.

Two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions and two Explorer Missions of Opportunity have been selected to conduct mission concept studies. After detailed evaluation of those studies, NASA plans to select one Mission of Opportunity and one Medium Explorer in 2024 to proceed with implementation. The selected missions will be targeted for launch in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

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What’s Next: The Future of NASA’s Laser Communications

Illustration of ILLUMA-T communicating science and exploration data from the International Space Station to LCRD. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Dave Ryan)

By Kendall Murphy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA uses lasers to send information to and from Earth, employing invisible beams to traverse the skies, sending terabytes of data – pictures and videos – to increase our knowledge of the universe. This capability is known as laser, or optical, communications, even though these eye-safe, infrared beams can’t be seen by human eyes.

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NASA’s Moon-observing CubeSat Ready for Artemis Launch

Illustration of NASA’s Lunar IceCube mission investigating lunar ice. (Credit: Morehead State University)

By Katherine Schauer and Danny Baird
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s water-scouting CubeSat is now poised to hitch a ride to lunar orbit. Not much bigger than a shoe box, Lunar IceCube’s data will have an outsized impact on lunar science.

The satellite is integrated into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ready to journey to the Moon as part of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, launching this year.

Orbiting the Moon, Lunar IceCube will use a spectrometer to investigate lunar ice. Earlier missions revealed water ice on the Moon, but Lunar IceCube will further NASA’s knowledge about lunar ice dynamics.

Scientists are interested in the absorption and release of water from the regolith — the Moon’s rocky and dusty surface. With Lunar IceCube investigating this process, NASA can map these changes as they occur on the Moon.

Lunar IceCube will also study the exosphere — the very thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Moon. By understanding the dynamics of water and other substances on the Moon, scientists will be able to predict seasonal changes for lunar ice that could impact its use as a resource in the future.

This will all be achieved from an efficient and cost-effective CubeSat that only weighs 31 pounds. Lunar IceCube is one of several CubeSats catching a ride to the Moon aboard Artemis I. These small satellites, along with future Artemis missions, will increase our knowledge for living and working on the Moon and eventually Mars.


Lunar IceCube is funded by NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program, or NextSTEP, in support of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division within the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. The Lunar IceCube mission is led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California; NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia; and Busek Space Propulsion and Systems in Natick, Massachusetts.

NASA Awards Contracts to Lockheed Martin and Maxar for NOAA GeoXO Spacecraft Phase A Study

Credit: NOAA

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Spacecraft Phase A Study. These contracted firms will help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO Program.

The firms selected are Lockheed Martin Space of Littleton, Colorado, and Maxar Space LLC of Palo Alto, California. The total value of each of these ten-month firm-fixed-price contracts is approximately $5 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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NASA Goddard Center Director Shares Plans to Retire

Dennis Andrucyk (Image Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — Dennis Andrucyk, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has announced his intent to retire after more than 36 years of federal service, including multiple leadership roles at NASA and as Goddard’s director since January 2020.

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NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Roman Space Telescope

A high-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — NASA has awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch service for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope mission. The Roman Space Telescope is the top-priority large space mission recommended by the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

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NASA Seeks Public’s Designs to Throw Shade in Space

Star shade (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Searching the universe for Earth-like planets is like looking for a needle in a haystack. To further this exploration, NASA is supporting the early-stage study of a concept for a hybrid observatory that would combine a ground-based telescope with a space-based starshade. These devices block glare from stars when observing planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, from the ground. The Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE) would convert the largest ground telescopes into the most powerful planet finders ever made – and the public has an opportunity to be part of this groundbreaking endeavor.

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NASA’s Webb Sheds Light on Galaxy Evolution, Black Holes

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA Mission Update

  • In an enormous new image, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals never-before-seen details of galaxy group “Stephan’s Quintet”
  • The close proximity of Stephan’s Quintet gives astronomers a ringside seat to galactic mergers, interactions
  • Webb’s new image shows in rare detail how interacting galaxies trigger star formation in each other and how gas in galaxies is being disturbed
  • The image also shows outflows driven by a black hole in Stephan’s Quintet in a level of detail never seen before
  • Tight galaxy groups like this may have been more common in the early universe when superheated, infalling material may have fueled very energetic black holes

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

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NASA’s Webb Reveals Cosmic Cliffs, Glittering Landscape of Star Birth

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA Mission Update

  • NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals emerging stellar nurseries and individual stars in the Carina Nebula that were previously obscured
  • Images of “Cosmic Cliffs” showcase Webb’s cameras’ capabilities to peer through cosmic dust, shedding new light on how stars form
  • Objects in the earliest, rapid phases of star formation are difficult to capture, but Webb’s extreme sensitivity, spatial resolution, and imaging capability can chronicle these elusive events

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

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Biden to Unveil First Webb Photo on Monday

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

President Joe Biden has decided to move up the unveiling of the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope to Monday at 5 p.m. He will unveil it from the White House with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

A live stream of the event will be available on NASA TV. The image will be available simultaneously on NASA’s website.

NASA will unveil additional images as planned on Tuesday along with Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency representatives.

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NASA Updates Coverage for Webb Telescope’s First Images Reveal

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

NASA Mission Update

NASA, in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), will release the James Webb Space Telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data during a live broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 12, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Released one by one, these first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope will demonstrate Webb at its full power as it begins its mission to unfold the infrared universe.

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OSIRIS-REx Scientists: Taking Asteroid Sample was Like Punching a Ball Pit

Bennu’s surface was disturbed in three different ways: by the force of the spacecraft touching down; by the sampling mechanism, which collected material by blowing gas into its collection filter; and by four of the spacecraft’s back-away thrusters, which moved the spacecraft away from the sample site (marked with a red “X” in the second of these two images) and agitated dust and boulders on the surface. The image above shows the TAG site and highlights (red circle) a large boulder thrown about 40 feet (about 12 meters). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — Asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, led by the University of Arizona, kept surprising the mission team while the spacecraft studied the asteroid from a distance. The biggest surprise, however, came when OSIRIS-REx swooped in to grab a sample of material from Bennu and encountered not a solid surface but one that gave way so easily the sampler arm sank 1 1/2 feet into it within seconds.

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NASA to Launch 6 Small Satellites to Monitor, Study Tropical Cyclones

An image of Tropical Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar captured by the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite in February of 2022. (Credit: NASA)

Update: The launch aboard an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 booster failed after the vehicle’s second stage shut down prematurely on Sunday. NASA said in an update that the TROPICS constellation can still improve the monitoring of tropical cyclones with four satellites. Astra Space has the contract to launch the four additional TROPICS spacecraft on two launches.

By Sofie Bates
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA is launching the first two of six small satellites no earlier than June 12 that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites. This is the first of three CubeSat launches for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The remaining satellites will be placed into their orbits during two subsequent launches this year. If successful, the TROPICS satellites will be spread across three orbital planes to cover more of the globe more frequently.

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NASA Moon Mission Set to Break Record in Navigation Signal Test

Artistic rendering of LuGRE and the GNSS constellations. In reality, the Earth-based GNSS constellations take up less than 10 degrees in the sky, as seen from the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Dave Ryan)

By Danny Baird
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — As the Artemis missions journey to the Moon and NASA plans for the long voyage to Mars, new navigation capabilities will be key to science, discovery, and human exploration.

Through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, Firefly Aerospace of Cedar Park, Texas, will deliver an experimental payload to the Moon’s Mare Crisium basin. NASA’s Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) payload will test a powerful new lunar navigation capability using Earth’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals at the Moon for the first time.  GNSS refers to satellite constellations commonly used for position, navigation, and timing services on Earth. GPS — the GNSS constellation operated by the U.S. Space Force — is the one many Americans are familiar with and use on a daily basis.

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CubeSat Set to Demonstrate NASA’s Fastest Laser Link from Space

The completed TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) payload at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory. (Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory)

By Kendall Murphy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) mission, carrying the TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system, will debut on May 25 as part of SpaceX’s Transporter-5 rideshare launch. TBIRD will showcase the high-data-rate capabilities of laser communications from a CubeSat in low-Earth orbit. At 200 gigabits per second (Gbps), TBIRD will downlink data at the highest optical rate ever achieved by NASA.

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